While meeting Congolese war victims, pope begs the world to hear "the cry of their blood"
On the second day of his Africa visit, Francis encourages victims of violence in Eastern Congo to forgive, despite the atrocities they've suffered.
Pope Francis has held an emotional meeting with victims of the "inhumane violence" that is terrorizing the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, telling them, "Your tears are my tears; your pain is my pain."
The gathering on Wednesday, the second day of the pope's apostolic visit to DRC, was held at the apostolic nunciature in the capital Kinshasa. A heavy silence hovered over the parlor as two young women and two children knelt before the 86-year-old pope, who held their hands and prayed over them before impairing a blessing.
The women had just recounted the harrowing details of what they suffered back home. Their words still echoed in the small room.
Bijoux Makumbu Kamala, one of the women that knelt before Francis, does not speak French, so her friend Legge read her harrowing testimony. It retraced the "atrocious suffering" caused by the sexual violence he suffered over a period of 19 months.
"One day we went to the river to fetch water. It was in Musenge, in one of the villages of the Walikale Territory. It was in 2020," the testimony began. "On the way, we met some rebels. They took us into the forest. Each of the rebels chose who they wanted. For me, it was the commander who wanted me. He raped me like an animal," Legge continued with Bijoux's account.
Twins were born as a result of that rape. And Bijoux held the two small children in her arms as Legge read her story.
These two young women gave perhaps the strongest testimony of all those who came to meet the pope. But there were other victims from Eastern Congo, such as Emelda, who told of how she was raped ten times a day. She said she was forced to eat the flesh of other women who had been held with her prior to being murdered.
There was also testimony from Ladislas, whose father was cut into pieces, and from Désiré, a survivor of a refugee camp. "I saw savagery: people cut up like meat in a butcher shop, women disemboweled, men decapitated," she said.
"We commit ourselves to forgive each other"
Each of those who made the journey to Kinshasa for this meeting with the pope a symbol of their ordeal at the foot of a cross. Bijoux brought the mat she slept on. Ladislas brought a machete like the one that killed his father… Each and everyone of these victims of atrocities said they were ready to forgive, an incredible gesture, if ever there was one, for anyone who had just heard their appalling testimony.
"Today we place the instruments of our suffering under the cross of your Son," they said together at the end of the meeting with Francis. "We commit ourselves to forgive one another and to flee from every path of war and conflict to resolve our differences."
"I am close to you. Your tears are my tears; your pain is my pain," said the visibly moved pope. He then condemned the "brutal atrocities, which bring shame upon all humanity!" "Listen to the cry of their blood!" he said, specifically addressing his words to all who "orchestrate war".
"All your neighbors are your sisters and brothers"
For the first time since the beginning of his six-day visit to Africa, which continues over the weekend in South Sudan, the pope explicitly mentioned Rwanda. The country has been accused of supporting rebel militias in Eastern Congo and monopolizing its natural resources.
"Dear brothers and sisters, all your neighbors, then, are your sisters and brothers, whether they be Burundian, Ugandan or Rwandan. All of us are brothers and sisters because all of us are children of the same Father," Francis continued, asking that we not remain "closed in on our particular interests, or within our own ethnic groups or families".
In this context, and despite the pain, the pope asked those who had just given testimony to have the strength of "forgiveness", and to make sure that one day "enemies" will be transformed into "brothers and sisters".
"A different future will come about if it is for all and not just for a few, if it is for and not against others," he insisted.
"A new future will come about if we see others, whether Tutsi or Hutu, no longer as adversaries or enemies, but as brothers and sisters, and if we believe that in their hearts, however hidden, they cherish the same desire for peace," Pope Francis said. "Even in the East, peace is possible! Let us believe this! Let us work for it, without delegating it to others!"
Source : Journal La Croix © copyright/ Photo : Por Jonathan Stutz. @Adobe Stock
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